|June 15, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 14|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
OSHA is requesting nominations for membership on the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC) to advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health on matters relating to the improvement of the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA's whistleblower protection activities.
The committee will be comprised of twelve voting members, appointed by the Secretary to serve two-year terms, and three non-voting members. The composition of the voting members is as follows: four members represent management, four members represent labor, three members represent the public and one member represents the Occupational Safety and Health State Plans. Nominations may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent via facsimile or mail. See the Federal Register notice for details. Nominations must be submitted by July 27, 2012.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food, safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. For more information, read the news release and visit www.whistleblowers.gov.
OSHA will hold a meeting of the Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) July 24-25, 2012, in Seattle.
MACOSH advises the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on worker safety and health issues in the maritime industries. The meeting agenda will include discussions on safe entry and cleaning of vessel sewage tanks; injury and illness prevention programs; confined space and ventilation; hot work on hollow structures; man overboard; and log handling operations. MACOSH meetings are open to the public. Individuals may submit comments and requests to speak at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent by mail or facsimile. Comments and requests to speak must be submitted by July 17, 2012. Read the news release and see the Federal Register notice for additional details.
A new OSHA resource provides information and support for nail salon workers to stay healthy and safe while giving manicures and pedicures. OSHA's Guide for Nail Salon Workers (PDF*) describes possible hazards in nail salons and good work practices that should be used to protect nail salon workers from chemical hazards, muscle strains, and diseases.
The new booklet, which was adapted from a guide developed by OSHA Susan Harwood Grant recipients at UC Berkeley, also explains the rights nail salon workers have to a safe and healthy workplace under the OSH Act. To order free copies, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page online. For more information about nail salon hazards, see OSHA's Health Hazards in Nail Salons page.
In his June 2 address to the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) 2012 Safety Conference, OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels discussed OSHA's newest outreach campaign, Safety Pays, Falls Cost: Preventing Falls in Construction. He explained that while falls are the leading cause of death in construction, fatal falls can be prevented when employers plan, provide, and train workers how to use the right equipment and do the job safely. Along with OSHA's fall campaign partners and their construction safety specialists, Dr. Michaels reached out with this message to the thousands of employers and small business consultants attending the conference.
"Safety pays," said Dr. Michaels. "Safety does not just prevent injuries, it will save you money." As well as discussing the fall campaign, Dr. Michaels cited a new study from researchers at the Harvard Business School and UC Berkeley that confirms OSHA inspections not only protect workers but also save employers money.
OSHA has also posted three new educational factsheets on preventing falls in residential construction: Erecting Exterior and Interior Walls (PDF*) offers guidance on safely standing wood framed walls, Floor Joist Installation and Decking (PDF*) provides information on ways to safely install floor and ceiling joists as well as decking, and Working in Attics (PDF*) explains how to protect employees working in attics. More resources and information are available on OSHA's Fall Protection in Residential Construction page. For additional materials about working safely from heights in construction, visit OSHA's Preventing Falls in Construction page.
Together with Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farmworkers and recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, OSHA is working to get the message out to outdoor workers and their employers about "Water, Rest, Shade." In a series of new public service announcements in both English and Spanish, Huerta explains that heat illness can be deadly, but is also preventable.
"Each year," says Huerta, "thousands of workers in agriculture, construction, and other outdoor industries develop heat-related illnesses that can cause serious medical problems and even death. Heat illness can be prevented – beat the heat with water, rest and shade." For the second year, OSHA working to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather. Last year, OSHA reached over two million people with this lifesaving message and educational resources, and is working to reach even more this year with additional materials like the Heat App. For more information, and to access the Dolores Huerta PSAs or any other of OSHA's heat materials, visit OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention page.
A recent study from UC Davis shows that almost 80 percent of workplace injuries and illnesses are borne primarily by injury victims and their families, and by private health insurers and government social safety net programs, rather than by workers' compensation insurance. In the article, "Workers' Compensation Benefits and Shifting Costs for Occupational Injury and Illness," researchers explain that such cost shifts block the ability of workers' compensation premiums to signal responsible employers that prevention is important.
"Cost-shifting affects everyone, because we're all paying higher Medicare and income taxes to help cover that 79 percent," said study co-author J. Paul Leigh. Not only does cost-shifting increase the burden on individual taxpayers, it also artificially lowers the workers' compensation premiums that should be used to cover wage replacement and medical care for employees injured on the job. According to Leigh, this means there is "little incentive for companies to promote workplace safety." The study also indicates that the cost-shifting "illustrates the inadequacy of existing data sets for capturing the true costs of occupational injury and illness." To learn more, read the full article from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
In a new guidance document for workers who handle nanomaterials, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides recommendations on engineering controls and safe practices for working with these engineered materials in laboratories and pilot scale operations.
The NIOSH guide, General Safe Practices for Working with Engineered Nanomaterials in Research Laboratories (PDF*), was designed to be used alongside well-established practices and a laboratory's chemical hygiene plan. Workers who use nanomaterials in research or production processes may be exposed to nanoparticles through inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion, depending on how the materials are used and handled. Although the potential health effects of such exposure are not fully understood at this time, scientific studies indicate that at least some of these materials are biologically active, may readily penetrate intact human skin, and have produced toxicologic reactions in the lungs of exposed experimental animals. For more information about the health effects, workplace assessments, and controls for nanomaterials, visit OSHA's Nanotechnology page.
OSHA has ordered Anchorage-based North Star Behavioral Health System to reinstate an employee who was fired after reporting safety concerns about compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) at the company's residential youth facility outside of Anchorage.
In retaliation for reporting these concerns to state agencies, the employer disciplined the complainant, ordered him to refrain from future contact with regulatory agencies and then fired him for allegedly sabotaging the facility's water supply. An investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program found that the termination violated the whistleblower provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and that the evidence did not support the employer's reasons for disciplining the employee or the allegations of sabotage. North Star has been ordered to immediately reinstate the whistleblower to his former position and pay more than $272,000 in wages and damages. More details are available in the news release.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the SDWA and 20 other statutes. Detailed information on workers' whistleblower rights is available on OSHA's Whistleblower page.
OSHA has cited The Geo Group Inc. with six safety and health violations, including one willful, for exposing employees to workplace violence and failing to take adequate measures to reduce the risk of violence following a December 2011 inspection stemming from a complaint about the Meridian correctional facility. Proposed penalties total $104,100.
The willful safety violation has been cited for failing to knowingly provide adequate staffing, fix malfunctioning cell door locks or provide required training to protect employees from incidents of violent behavior by inmates, including stabbings, bites and other injuries. One repeat health violation also has been cited for failing to conduct medical evaluations for workers required to wear respirators. Two serious health and one serious safety violation include failure to conduct a fit test for employees required to wear respirators, have a written exposure control plan for employees exposed to bloodborne pathogens and complete a personal protective equipment hazard assessment. For more details, read the press release.
OSHA has proposed a total of $193,400 in fines for three Pennsylvania-based contractors for violations of workplace safety standards at a work site located at the Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H.
The largest penalties are proposed against JDE Inc. of Souderton, Penn., general contractor for the construction of a field house on the campus grounds. An inspection by OSHA's Concord Area Office resulted in OSHA issuing four willful citations with $140,000 in proposed fines to JDE for failure to ensure that the concrete foundation was structurally sound and the structural steel was constantly stable during the erection process, and failure to protect its employees against fall and cave-in hazards.
Steel erection contractor Superior Fabric Structures of New Providence, Pa., and masonry contractor Pat Campion, doing business as Campion Construction Co. of Glenside, Pa., were also issued serious citations for steel erection, cave-in, and other hazards. Read the news release for more information about the serious violations.
On June 11, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Assistant Secretary for OSHA David Michaels signed joint declarations with ambassadors from the governments of Honduras, the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador.
Under the new agreements, regional OSHA and Wage and Hour offices will collaborate with the four countries' embassies and consulates to reach out to migrant workers and their employers and educate them about U.S. labor laws.
"Migrant workers make important contributions to our economy," said Secretary Solis. "Today's agreements help ensure these workers are aware of the right to safe workplaces and to receive full payment of the wages owed to them under the laws of the United States." Together, the consulates and Labor Department will reach out to migrant workers with information about U.S. health, safety and wage laws. For more information, see the press release and read the recent DOL blog entry from Secretary Solis.
While developing new manufacturing processes for RVs and motor homes, Indiana-based Dicor Corporation was concerned that new methods might endanger their workers, so they reached out to OSHA's Free On-site Consultation Program to identify areas to improve workplace safety and health. OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses to help them identify and correct hazards and improve their injury and illness prevention programs.
After the initial consultation in 2010, Dicor reviewed and changed several processes and pieces of equipment, as well as making significant improvements to worker training. Dicor then requested a second visit to address their concerns about the health hazards of solvents, resins, and other chemicals used by workers at the plant. Following this industrial hygiene review, OSHA consultants determined that worker exposure levels were well below permissible exposure limits, but suggested enhancements to Dicor's personal protective equipment program, which the company implemented right away. Dicor has since continued to implement processes and procedures that promote workplace safety throughout its operations.
"Paying attention to the health and safety of employees is one of the basic responsibilities of employers," said Dicor President Gregg Fore in a recent interview. He explained that the changes implemented by the company have not only resulted in improved worker safety and morale, but also led to savings for the company in reduced lost time accidents, absenteeism, and employee injuries. Read more about Dicor Corporation on OSHA’s Success Story page. To request a free consultation, visit OSHA's On-Site Consultation page or call 800-321-OSHA (6742) to find an office in your area.
On June 5, Secretary Solis inducted worker advocate Tony Mazzocchi into the Labor Hall of Honor.
In recognition of Mazzocchi's contributions to the modern occupational safety and health movement, Dr. Michaels wrote in a recent DOL blog entry, "One of Tony's greatest contributions was recognizing that scientists and rank-and-file workers shared the same goal of reducing workplace chemical exposures, and that both groups could learn from each other. Tony's legacy lives on today in worker health groups across our nation, in which workers, unions, activists and professionals come together to prevent workplace hazards."
Mazzocchi was a labor leader in New York City, who eventually became Legislative Director and then Vice-President of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (now part of the United Steelworkers). Through his association with the environmental movement, he became one of the first in the labor movement to recognize how dangerous it is for workers to be exposed to toxic chemicals day in and day out. His tireless advocacy for worker safety and health played a major role in convincing Congress to pass the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. To learn more about Mazzocchi’s contributions, read Dr. Michaels’ full entry on the DOL blog.
On June 7, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" that offers a comprehensive strategy to address the growing and dangerous practice of using handheld cell phones behind the wheel. The plan outlines concrete steps stakeholders around the country, including employers, can take to reduce the risk posed by distracted driving. Further details are available on the Department of Transportation (DOT) distracted driving page, www.distraction.gov.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of worker fatalities. Because many workers' jobs require them to spend part or all of their work day driving, OSHA and DOT have joined together in a campaign to stop distracted driving and save lives. To learn more about OSHA’s efforts to protect workers on the road, visit OSHA's Distracted Driving page.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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